Who would have thought? (Everyone). When you bring in the familiar faces, focus on the couples we’ve followed on this journey for five seasons and involve the characters we care about in the untold story, you have a pretty good episode in your hands.
“The Other Shoe” is a pretty good episode. In fact, it’s by far the best episode of the young season 6 so far. And it wasn’t really so hard, was it? It was common sense. The Count of Monte Cristo? Boring. Jekyll and Hyde? Boring. Cinderella – hell yes.
So, let’s break down an episode with plenty of romance, a strong sense of family and some pretty awesome outfits.
CINDERELLA’S UNTOLD STORY
In my eyes, Cinderella was boring. She was boring as an idea, she was boring in the movie and she was boring in her first appearance in Once Upon A Time. In “The Other Shoe,” however, Cinderella was anything but boring.
Untold stories sometimes make characters interesting. Sure, the show kept to the same “love at first sight/dance” trope for Ella and Thomas, but the fact that they made this episode not just about that, but about the idea that sometimes, in the quest for the thing you want most, you can hurt other people, was very powerful.
Let’s not defend Ella. She was in the wrong in this story. And what’s more important, she knew it. She got her happy ending in the end (28 years later, but whatever) and her step-sister did not. And yet, Ella was not truly the villain of this tale. The villain was her stepmother (Or, Evil Stepmother – ES for short).
That was the real takeaway from this. You can make mistakes. No one’s perfect. And yet, what happens after those mistakes is just as important as your poor judgment. Being the villain of the hero of your own story is up to you. Like Emma told Ella, you just gotta punch back and say: “No, THIS is who I am.”
Cinderella got a happy ending. More importantly, her not-so-evil stepsister got a happy ending. How’s the plan looking now, EQ?
DEFEAT AND REPEAT
Snow and Charming had some of the most poignant moments in this episode – first, in the woods, when Snow’s sort of defeatist attitude about always having to fight the good fight ends up with her admitting that she wants to go back to teaching, and then, in the loft, when they have a very honest moment together, despite the fact that Charming doesn’t really put the matter to rest.
The first moment is very real – it’s frustrating to always have one situation after the other. But Snow White and Prince Charming are, effectively, the leaders of this town, despite the fact that Regina is the Mayor and Emma the Savior. So Snow is thinking of the future, of rebuilding. Later, in a conversation with Regina, she continues on that trend, talking of putting Whale and Dr. Jekyll to work on teaching young people.
Later, in the Loft at night, the conversation basically circles down to the same thing – moving on. Doing their best with the life they have. Enjoying their family. Raising their son (I need suggestions for new names, since I’m never using his real one). And you can see in his face that Charming agrees. That he wants that.
But not knowing gnaws at him. It eats him up. And though he promises to put it away forever, all he does is put it aside and try to go on with his life – for now, at least.
Thing is, Snow and Charming will never stop being heroes. But six seasons in, these people seem to have finally grasped the notion that they’re not required to be heroes’ full time. Life goes on. And they can/should go on with it.
MOVE IN WITH ME
It was a long time coming, wasn’t it? And yet, that might have been on the outside, for in the context of the show, it felt like the appropriate progression. Emma has her issues, we know that, but she also has a partner she trusts and loves, and slowly, she’s getting to the place she needs to be at – the place where she allows herself to take what she wants and be happy about it.
What was stopping her before? Plain, old fashioned fear. I don’t think Emma could really put a name to it till she saw Killian with Alexandra, till she herself realized that she didn’t just want this man, but that she wanted him forever. That she wanted a future and a family with him.
Maybe to us it was obvious, but Emma needed to go through the journey, she needed to go from no way in hell to maybe, to I have feelings, to I love you, to true love. She especially needed the last part, because in her life, she’d gotten to I love you before, she’d believed in Neal, and he’d betrayed her in a way that made it hard for her to trust anyone else.
In this case, though, Emma wasn’t retreating from Killian because she was thinking short term. It wasn’t because she feared he was going to break up with her, or because she wanted to break up with him, no. It was because she thought she was going to die on him, and she figured, I might as well stay in shallow waters so it doesn’t hurt HIM as much.
This is absurd. Not just because it doesn’t work that way, but because, at this point, they’re both all the way in. It won’t hurt any less if they never move in together, and, as Archie wisely says, maybe it’s not about how you end things, maybe it’s about how you live them. Life is going to end one day, anyway. We still have to live our lives.
Emma’s living her life. She’s choosing herself – she’s choosing her happiness. It just turns out that her happiness is irrevocably linked with Killian Jones.
Some of you might recall that this is not the first time Emma has had tremors – she had them in the first episode of last season too, when she became the Dark One. Then, her family found her and Killian said: “We can find a way together.”
That helped her center herself. Helped her gain control. The shakiness stopped.
Why do I bring this up now? Well, because this show has a tendency to foreshadow the big things. In this episode, for example, when Henry tells her that she can do it, she can save Ashley, the tremors stop and she can finally access her magic.
This all points to the fact that, if Emma hopes to get control over her tremors, she needs to confide in her family. It also reinforces the idea that maybe, what’s under the hood is Emma herself, or the Dark Swan, or a manifestation of her fears. The hood thing is vaguely reminiscent of the Dark One’s in “Swan Song,” after all.
In the end, Emma can’t keep this secret for much longer. Hook’s gonna bring it up again. Henry’s going to bring it up again. And that’s probably a good thing. Because it seems like the curse of the saviors is the curse of loneliness, and Emma is not alone.
The theme of the episode was normalcy – or at least our characters striving to find a new normal in the middle of fighting the Evil Queen, or the villain of the season. Part of that normal was seeing Henry and Hook spending time together.
Normal, I say? Well, yes. Henry clearly knew his mom and Hook had breakfast each morning at Granny’s, her knew where to find them. When he gets there, the story he’s telling about the list is not told just to Emma, he’s sharing with both of them.
We also have a cute moment of Killian making fun of Henry’s handwriting, and the “sword fighting” moment, where Killian implies that Henry’s getting the hang of it – which suggest this is not the first time they’ve practiced, despite the fact that it’s the first time we’ve seen it on camera.
And the thing is – that’s normal. Getting along with your mother’s boyfriend, especially when you see that the relationship is not a passing thing, especially when True Love in this world is tantamount to forever and ever ….well, that’s as normal as it gets. Henry has one other father figure (Charming), and he has a father, yes, even if that father’s gone.
But Killian is not there to replace either of them. He’s there to be more of a support for Henry. And more people who love you is never a bad thing.
There were a lot of people with Daddy Issues in this episode, most notably Belle and Charming. It’s easy to where Charming is coming from – a bad father is better than an absent one, because at least that way you know. An absent father is an untold story, and Charming wants to know. A part of him might want vengeance, not justice, just like Snow said.
But that’s the past. Can he let it go? I don’t think so. Should he? Probably. I always remember these words by Rumple: “So long as you live in the past, you’ll never find your future.” Today, that applies both to Charming and to Rumple himself.
Yes, the lullaby is nice, Rumple. But the problem never was that Belle thought you didn’t care for her, or her son. She knows you care. WE know you care. It’s just that love is not enough. If you’re not willing to let go of your past, you can never really move into the future. You said it yourself.
The Evil Queen said it best; the tragic thing about being the savior is that you have to keep saving people. And a part of Emma wants to. She loves the sense of purpose that it gives her to help. But she also wants a happy ending. She wants to enjoy her parents, spend time with her little brother. She wants to see Henry grow up.
She wants to start a new family with Hook.
Does that mean giving up the gig? Resigning herself to a normal life? Could she even live one?
I don’t think so. I think that’s a simplistic answer. I think Emma – like Regina – needs to find a way to balance all sides of herself. And maybe what this season’s about. About balance. About finding how to be all of what you are and be proud of it.
THINGS THAT DO NOT MAKE SENSE, A LIST
Here we go again. Not even in a good episode can Once Upon A Time not provide material for my list. But hey, it would be very boring otherwise, wouldn’t it?
- Hyde and the “cell.” If the EQ already paid a visit to him, why wasn’t anyone expecting her to come back and set him free? It seems like a reasonable assumption.
- Hyde and the answers to every question in the known universe. Why would Hyde know how the EQ survived? Why does Hyde know everything? Other than convenience, that is.
- Does anyone care about Dopey? And by anyone, I mean Snow. I get that it made for a funny joke, but come on …
- Emma and Hook standing back while Henry confronted the EQ. There’s wanting to frame a shot a certain way, and then there’s common sense.
- Belle straight up admitted her father sucks. Then WHY was she counting on his TLK to save her from the sleeping curse?
OTHER THINGS TO NOTE
- Does Regina have anyone else locked up? And, if NOT, why are there nurses? Why has that woman been cleaning for like four seasons?
- Hook is drinking hot chocolate with whipped cream and I assume cinnamon. I wonder if this is a conscious choice or he just saw that’s how Emma drank it and assumed that’s the way it was usually prepared.
- I’m going to defend Belle’s honor here. Pregnancy does shit to your body. She probably doesn’t normally snore.
- If Regina can learn something about the Evil Queen is to be honest with herself. We’re all our good parts and our bad parts.
- I get WHY it happens, screen-writing wise – but I don’t like that they’ve made it look like Emma’s death would only affect Hook. Sometimes all you need is a line. It would certainly affect Henry, her parents and Regina.
- I would have had trouble remembering the name Clorinda too.
- Does Hook even know what a bus is?
- We should all be happy to find someone who gives us as much space to figure out what we want as Hook gives Emma.
NEXT, ON ONCE UPON A TIME
Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8/7c on ABC.